The first part of the article we published, here: https://www.naziogintza.eus/en/about-the-basque-national-school-part-1/
PUBLIC (STATE-RUN) VS PRIVATE SECTOR: A POINTLESS DEBATE:
Every so often heated debates emerge on the public/private dichotomy for education in the Peninsular Basque Country, with public system advocates bitterly criticizing above all the Basque-language school network or ikastolas.
NAZIOGINTZA’s point of view in this respect is clear. In our opinion, that discussion in a nation deprived of sovereignty like ours is just pointless, unless intended at whitewashing our subjugated status, colonization. The public (state-run)/private dichotomy can only be raised properly in countries enjoying full sovereignty, i.e. countries with their own state. In the Basque Country, “public”, means French/Spanish national schooling, a nuance staunch public (state-run) school advocates fail to consider. They forget our political situation, do not cite any Basque school curriculum, Navarre and Continental Basque Country do not exist, and skip our national subordination in their analyses.
Therefore, we think that public schooling, a real Basque public school, our school, can only be created based on political sovereignty in the Basque Country. In the meantime, the public/private debate remains irrelevant.
Dr. Fito Rodriguez and author Josu Txapartegi have addressed perfectly the dimensions of the issue in their latest book: “Public schooling is not a schooling model we need in the Basque Country”. As they state, among other points, “When it comes to public/private, the main question does not come down to whether education establishments should be state-run or private, but whether we the Basques enjoy the right to have are own school, whether we are eligible to have Basque language and culture at the centre of our education, or whether it remains legitimate for us to overcome this model based on the supremacy of French and Spanish [language].”
They go on to state that “the Neo-Spanish ideology (leftist, overall) is fostering a state network-based autonomic school (…), for which the signs of cultural shift are ever more apparent among us”.
We share that opinion. From a Basque nationalist point of view, debate on the school model in the Iberian Basque Country should not refer back to the public/private dichotomy, but Basque/Spanish language and Basque Country/Spain. The point of contention remains a school model based on the Basque Country or Spain/France.
Only when we seize full command to implement our curriculum, ceasing to be dependent on Spanish law, and our language and culture are hegemonic in our education system, only then will there be a point to discuss the public/private model issue. It is worth reading the Spanish Organic Law of Education (2/2006) on its article 6.2 article to illustrate our point: “It corresponds to the Spanish Government the general regulation of the education system and the general syllabus in schooling….”). So as long as our language and culture are not hegemonic in the Basque education system, it is no use talking about a public (state-run) or private education model.
Moreover, a question should be addressed to the devoted advocates of the present-day French/Spanish public system, as follows: What do we understand as private school? The Basque schools, ikastolak, are private schools seeking economic profit? In the sphere of Basque language instruction for adults, for example, should we consider AEK as a private entity? Is the daily BERRIA a private entity as well? And UEU, the Basque Summer University? The four instances cited hold no doubt a conspicuous public dimension in the domain of Basque culture building. All of them, including the ikastolas, were generated by the Basque people responding to an immediate urge to pave the way for the survival and development of our language and culture. They were founded in a context of repression and domination with a view from the very beginning to revitalizing Basque language and culture. As pointed out above, it is worth remembering that our dependency status has not vanished.
Lastly, we should not forget that the present-day public model is dependent on the incumbent government, which raises red flags, as it provides fertile grounds for vicious and partisan meddling against the autonomy of education establishments. For instance, not long ago, the Government of Navarre implemented censorship on textbooks, forbidding the occurrence of Basque Country maps or flags. These are the risks we stand for not enjoying political sovereignty and the Basques not having a say on the game rules.
NOT SEGREGATION, BUT INTEGRATION:
Demography has no doubt changed a lot since 2005, especially in the Iberian Basque Country, due to the inflow of tens of thousands of immigrants arriving in quest for a better life, especially from Africa and America. It turns out that at the same time the birth rate has hit a record low. Also, the newcomers bring along children in their journey. That has had a deep impact in our schools, since the integration of immigrant children in our education system is more complex than in Spain, given the fact that we are lacking the authority necessary to design our own education and that our native language, Basque, is presently in a state of diglossia.
The data available are very relevant: 15% of the children enrolled presently in Primary School at the Basque Autonomous Community originate from abroad; the rate is actually higher, since these data do not consider Spanish schoolchildren. These children attend massively the public (state-run) network. Every year 5,000 new schoolchildren with no previous contact to the Basque Country arrive at the education system in the Basque Autonomous Community. We could not retrieve the data for Navarre, but there also figures are fairly high, e.g. in Castejon, south of Navarre, schoolchildren with a mother tongue other than Spanish, certainly not Basque, accounted for a 46% of all children enrolled in education. The challenge posed by the integration of these children into Basque society is extraordinary. Our system is not equipped to have all these children ready for their accommodation in the Basque Country. The system does not often teach them the Basque Country even exists. However, we think this issue deserves deeper consideration, and will be addressed in another specific article.
These important demographic changes came about in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis along with cutbacks in education, exposing the school resources to severe stress. That situation makes customized attention to immigrant children rather difficult. Furthermore, that type of attention does not often exist, so they are mingled with other pupils in an all-Basque education type classroom (D model), despite having no knowledge of Basque whatsoever. That leads to integration problems.
Presently our education system lacks the necessary resources to provide immigrant children with due attention once the academic year has started, which in Secondary School and the D model leads to serious problems. As it is well known, the younger are the children the better they integrate in the Basque-language model.
The autonomic Basque administration should allocate further human and material resources in order to face up to the challenge, since the acquisition of Basque language and culture by large sectors of our youth is now at stake. The large numbers of foreigners and the risk to create ghettos have brought us to a critical point by which the possibility of going back 30 years in the Basque acquisition process is certain, unless urgent measures are taken.
We share the specialists’ opinion in this respect: the schoolchildren joining the education system during the academic year should receive specific and customized lessons in their own groups and a convenient period, which could possibly be two years. During that period, proper acquisition and use of Basque should be an overriding concern, all the more so in Basque-language areas, laying out the grounds for a normalized schooling. Other countries do actually use that formula by now, like Catalonia with their “aules d’acollida”, the most effective way forward for both newcomers and natives.
Research has revealed that present-day Basque-language competence and overall academic results are lower among pupils with a foreign background; the language competence reached by Basque Country’s own Spanish/French language speakers should also be assessed, anyway. This issue requires the implementation of correction measures in order to avoid educative discrimination and an increased gap among schoolchildren.
In addition, we consider it essential the abolition for ever of Spanish-language and mixed Basque-Spanish language education models A and B in order to prevent segregation and the emergence of ghettoes. Actually, an important trend exists for foreign parents, especially Latin Americans, to have their children enrolled in A and B models if they can; the A model in the public network of the Basque Autonomous Community has become a haven for foreign schoolchildren, who also show the lowest socio-economic status. These two education models are ever more marginal, both accounting for 16% of the enrolment in Primary Education. As it turns out, they pose a burden for integration and coexistence.
Before ending this section, we should add a thought on cultural diversity. It does not come across as very fair to continually praise the advantages of cultural diversity when we cannot actually live in Basque across our own nation, far from the normalization of Basque, with the language in many areas of the Basque Country falling into a critical condition. According to NAZIOGINTZA, Basque language and culture should be the starting and meeting point for all cultural diversities, i.e. the inclusion of newcomers in school should be directed by means of Basque language and culture, paving the way for social cohesion. The cultures of these children should no doubt be respected, also encouraged and maintained in the private domain, but our point is clear: the goal of the Basque schools should be integration in our native land, as it is pursued in all states of the world, and not inversely.
BASQUE CURRICULUM AND BASQUE CONTENTS IN EDUCATION:
Sovereign nations design and implement their curriculum at all levels of education. By contrast, subjugated nations undergo the consequences of cultural colonization also in the area of education; the dominant nation imposes the educative contents subject to study. It goes without saying that these contents attempt to imbue the schoolchildren with a context that refers back to the main states, either overtly or practically, in an attempt to push our culture to oblivion and non-existence.
The Basque Country has no curriculum of its own in education. In Peninsular Basque Country, according to the Spanish legal arrangement, we may decide up to 45% of syllabus content in the mandatory education level. However, in practice, that often does not happen, with many education establishments fully implementing the Spanish programs. For instance, in the Philosophy programs during A Levels (Batxilergoa) Ortega y Gasset is a philosopher scheduled for study, but Joxe Azurmendi is not even cited in many texts. Certainly the situation in the Continental Basque Country is even worse, since French Jacobinism does not allow even for a minimal approach to native cultures in the classroom. Not long ago, fuss and opposition erupted in a public school over a Basque Country map.
Incidentally, it should be noted that a Basque curriculum should take into account the identity of the Basque Country in a broad sense.
During Jose Antonio Ibarretxe’s tenure in office a number of steps forward were taken, with Anjeles Iztueta as the autonomic Education minister, but the process has lost momentum during the last years. Presently, no integral Basque curriculum exists anywhere, with the Basque schools or ikastolas being the only networks showing a project in place to develop our own contents.
It is disheartening to notice that the new draft Education Act does NOT EVEN CITE a curriculum of our own, in an area so strategic and relevant from a Basque nationalist perspective. It is appalling indeed. Clearly the draft designers did not want to move away from the rigid Spanish framework. Furthermore, they show no sign of attempting to make the most of the leeway allowed for by the cracks found in the curriculum.
Unesco’s Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights from 1996 states the following in its 28th article: “All language communities are entitled to an education which will enable their members to acquire a thorough knowledge of their cultural heritage (history, geography, literature, and other manifestations of their own culture), as well as the most extensive possible knowledge of any other culture they may wish to know.”. Does the present-day model guarantee that aspiration in the Basque Country? The answer is no for Navarre and the Continental Basque Country, but not either for the Western Basque Country, despite its inclination to Basque nationalism.
Additionally, didactic materials and textbooks hold a close connection to the curriculum, but nowadays only one textbook publisher exists showing a Basque outlook. Therefore, schools use at best French and Spanish didactic materials translated to Basque. It is worth remembering that textbooks are chosen among teacher seminars in the Iberian Basque Country’s public network, with no say of other stakeholders in the selection process, e.g. parents. In the Christian schooling network, that selection is carried out by the owners of the school. Only the ikastolas opt for a Basque curricular outlook, using textbooks released by native publishers and often designed by the Basque schooling network itself (ikastolas). Do note that both Elkar and Ikastolen Elkartea, the Ikastola Association, coordinate IKASELKAR. The materials are generated by Ikastolen Elkartea, published thereafter by IKASELKAR. In state-run education establishments, nothing is generated or published organically. Didactic materials are published by all sorts of publishers, with the selection being carried out by the said method above.
Research conducted by Dr. Joan Mari Torrealdai in 2017 (Euskal liburugintza, Jakin, 235) revealed that only 35% of the books used in the Western Basque Country schools were produced by native publishers. Therefore, most didactic materials used in the Western Basque Country are Spanish. Data for Navarre and Continental Basque Country are even worse.
Torrealdai, passed away in 2020, showed concern a few years ago in that respect: “Generally speaking, we could say that alien education programs treat the Basque Country poorly and, more often than not, badly when it comes to its history, geography and language. They may comply with law, not a difficult task, but as far as we are concerned the Basque Country is ill-treated”. (Testuliburuak eta Euskal Herria Jakin, 93-94, 1996, page 20). These textbooks usually present a deformed Basque Country, only showing the Western Basque Country.
We would indulge in self-deceit if we thought that a Basque language text guarantees an appropriate didactic material. In fact, content has be elaborated in Spanish and translated into Basque: Spanish thought might as well spread in Basque. Instruction in Basque does not imply the acquisition of a Basque way of thinking. Contents developed by Spanish publishers in many textbooks translated into Basque ooze Spanish outlook, conspicuously so.
Let us not forget then: curriculum in Basque and Basque curriculum do no mean the same. The first can be alienating, but not the second.
We could dwell on the improvements required for the education system of the Western Basque Country, but we do not aim at substituting educational agents in their job. It is down to them to put forward proposals looking at the optimization of the Basque education system. As customary, our analysis focuses on the domain of national building. As we note in the article above, a mission of Education is to provide schoolchildren with a national reference framework. We aspire to have a Basque framework in a broad sense, not only with respect to language. Will the new Education Act of the Basque Autonomous Community take steps forward in that direction? Let us wait and see. But it does not look good.